Honor Code

As Honor Week wraps to a close, the question arises as to how to get students more invested in a “culture of honor” at Tech. Any effort to get the campus to have a culture of honor based on an appeal to ethical standards is doomed to fail. Saying that students should not cheat because of the moral or ethical implications is all well and good, but if a student is being put at a disadvantage by other students’ cheating, this reasoning will not hold water. In addition, different majors have different qualifications for cheating, and different nationalities place different emphases on plagiarism and copying work, so an appeal to morality will not apply evenly across the student body.

The Honor Code should carry a promise of reward and punishment, not a warm fuzzy sentiment. None of the disparity in the number of violations is due to shortage or surplus of moral goody-goodies in a major, but simply the feasibility of cheating. The College of Architecture has fewer cases because it is hard to cheat at design, but the College of Science has more because it is easy to copy off an exam or falsify data in a lab.

Ultimately, we need a contract to get students really invested in a culture of honor on campus. In order to be effective, however, this contract would need to give back to students, instead of just requiring certain behaviors of them. The idea of “protecting my degree” sounds nice, but does not give students anything tangible. A contract that says the Institute will do its best to provide a level playing field will incentivize students to do their best to maintain it.

In order for this to work, administrators must find some way of getting professors on board with this mentality, which would require changes on their part in terms of policy, rewards and requirements. Streamline the process to make it easier for professors to file the paperwork. Work in more evaluations to reward professors who appropriately provide access to old tests, follow prescribed policies and effectively police their classroom. Require professors or TAs to observe students during testing to detect cheating. Ultimately, if the faculty is not interested in providing a level playing field for all students, students will have no motivation to do so either.